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Thursday 14th Dec 2017

First and foremost, the happiest and safest of Memorial Day holidays to all of you and your families. Of course, it is easy to be able to enjoy ourselves in a world where Scott Kazmir, still a functioning lefty, goes to the 60-day DL, and Kyle Blanks is released.

As for your roto teams, this is indeed the time to take stock of your team, if you have a realistic shot at winning, and what you can do to make that happen. So, as usual, the Hotpage is here to help you stay ahead of the curve, and we will start locally this time with Athletics second sacker Jed Lowrie.

The keystone guy, Lowrie was .500-0-4 over the past week, with four doubles, notching his season totals to .303-6-16 with 29 runs scored, and is signed through this season, though with a 2018 option. However, with Franklin Barreto, Chad Pinder and Matt Chapman on the horizon, and Marcus Semien and Ryon Healy already producing, Lowrie becomes an obvious trade chip to a contending team.

I wanted Hunter Renfroe, of whom I have more than a few shares, and who was largely disappointing as he was adjusting to full-time play over the course of an entire season in the big leagues, but he has finally started to push his numbers north of the Mendoza line. With a .429-1-2 week, Renfroe raised his season line to .231-9-20 and his OBP up to an almost respectable .286. Keep it going, Hunter.

Similarly, if you have been waiting for the explosive Carlos Gonzalez, alas, he has finally got some heat in his bat with a .303-2-10 month, pushing his season totals to .244-4-16. A good month ago, a friend actually sent me a note asking if he should acquire Cargo, who had been dropped by his frustrated owner, and I simply responded "absolutely," noting that Gonzalez is a potential impact player. Even if you don't need him, pulling Gonzalez out of the free agent pool and preventing other owners from having him is in and of itself a great move.

If you want to watch for the emergence of the next dominant pitcher in baseball, try Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray, who over the past two weeks has gone 2-0, 1.93 over 18.6 innings with 17 whiffs and a stunning 0.857 WHIP, giving Ray a 4-3, 3.45 over 60 innings, with 74 whiffs, and most importantly, a 1.20 WHIP. Including this season, Ray has a career WHIP of 1.413, so if Ray indeed has gained that final command, look out for him, and try to own him wherever you can.

Let's check out a couple of Beantown players next, starting with a hitter I like in first sacker Sam Travis, who looked like the first base heir apparent in 2015, following his .307-9-78 year, with 32 doubles, split between High-A and Double-A. But, after a hot start (.272-6-29) at Pawtucket last year, Travis blew out his knee and missed the bulk of 2016, waylaying progress. But, after a .286-4-14 start at Triple-A, he has arrived and will be the ultimate answer to first base.

Travis' teammate, pitcher Brian Johnson, stunned the universe on Saturday, shutting out Seattle on five hits, tossing a complete game on the same day that Chase Anderson struggled to keep his pitch count under 120 trying to no-hit Arizona. Johnson, a first-round pick in 2012, has a 2-0, 2.57 mark with Boston, augmented by 2-0, 2.87 at Pawtucket. Johnson lost the numbers game to the activation of David Price. That is cool: grab him and stash him, for it is certain the Sox will need him again this year.

The Braves advanced former Padres top pick Matt Wisler, and while it is very difficult for me to recommend a hurler with a career big league 15-21, 4.95 line, I have long liked Wisler and his control. As a minor leaguer, Wisler has a line of 31-23, 3.65 over 524.6 frames with a 1.20 WHIP to go with 474 whiffs. The Braves are indeed working through the struggles to get to the next step, and Wisler could rise to the occasion and become a solid #3 starter. While I am not suggesting you grab him now, I am saying keep an eye on the guy. I think he is better than his numbers suggest.

Finally, Leury Garcia, the 26-year-old outfielder of the Pale Hose, is seriously worth taking a look at in every format. That is because Garcia has grabbed a starting gig, posting .276-6-17 totals with four steals, with 22 runs scored. Garcia has a .273-22-210 line with 322 runs and 204 swipes over 657 minor league games. He might really just be a fourth outfielder, but he is playing like a #3 this year, so in your deep league, don't let Garcia sit in the FA pool.

Make sure you check out my radio show on FNTSY every Thursday night, from 8-10 PM, ET. This week my special guest will be Ron Shandler, Tout Wars and BBHQ founder.

And, feel free to bug, cajole, harangue, or simply praise me @lawrmichaels.

The week before Memorial Day is always a fun one, and we all speculate summer travels and changes with graduations and weddings; something we are part of with a couple each of trips, graduations, and weddings on the horizon.

It does mean the warm weather is here, something Mother Nature has largely complied aside from dropping indiscriminate dumps of rain hither and yon. For now, there are a bunch of names, some new, some old, and some not worth bothering about for us to ponder. And, if you like what you read here, join my running mate Justin Mason from Friends With Fantasy Benefits and me every Thursday evening from 8-10 PM, ET for the Tout Wars Hour where we talk strategy and a lot of other good stuff with the analysts and writers you follow the most. This week our guests will be MLB.com's Fred Zinkie and BBHQ relief specialist Doug Dennis.

I noted in the Tout Wars FAAB report last week that I liked the acquisiton of Chad Pinder for a couple of bucks by current league leader Clay Link. For, on a team with some interesting players, interesting possibilities, and a GM happy to give a solid kid a shot, Pinder is indeed making himself known, hitting .267-4-9, hitting one of his bombs this weekend over the pavilion in center, a feat duplicated only four times. A former #2 pick (2013), Pinder plays both short and second, and can indeed double in the outfield as well. With the Athletics limping through with Jed Lowrie and Adam Rosales--both of whom I like, neither of whom is a long-term anything--Pinder should get a fair shake of time to show what he can do. 

While we are at it, Jose Berrios, following his ridiculous 7.6 inning two-hitter with 11 whiffs, is now totally worth activating in any format. He may struggle, but he is here to stay, so if you drafted or reserved Berrios, or maybe picked him up years ago in your Ultra League, and have been waiting, activate him now. Again, he may struggle, but he will never again qualify as a rookie, so any benefits your league constitution affords go for it. Or, trade him. His value might get higher, but it is pretty high right now. Just don't sit on him.

And, I have to wonder about Cleveland, who advanced Bradley Zimmer over Tyler Naquin (.396-1-5 at Columbus) but that they did, and Zimmer looks like he could be interesting. A first-round pick of the Tribe in 2013, the California native had a nice .270-42-171 line in the Minors over 338 games, with a strong .372 OBP (167 walks to 378 strikeouts), and has begun his big league career well enough with a .267-1-3 with a steal this past week, and is a sure pickup in deep leagues, if still available.

The Angels signed Doug Fister. Nothing against Doug Fister, but this time last year they signed Tim Lincecum. How did that work out? Acquire accordingly.

In the same vein, the Braves signed James Loney, and then swapped for Matt Adams hoping to plug the horrible Freddie Freeman void. It appears Adams will get frst shot at everyday at-bats. If your objective is to try and stop the bleeding the loss of Freeman presents, try to figure out something else. Freeman was the best player on an up-and-coming team: he is the kind of player who simply makes the other players around him better. Neither Adams nor Loney is that guy, as the good pitches the players around Freeman saw will dissipate, and Loney/Adams will have to face the music without any more protection than anyone else on the team.

If you are lamenting the struggles of Julio Urias, think about Jose Berrios. Yeah, Urias adjusted more quickly at first, but now the Dodger hurler is not so much of a secret, and for now the team has a strong rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Surely one of those guys will hit the DL, probably before the break, so Urias will be back and he should be pretty good.

I have been biting it up the middle this year it seems, and in shallower leagues Neil Walker is hitting .364-2-12 over the past two weeks, raising his season totals to .255-4-24. Walker is pretty steady, and is a good pickup right now.

If you are in an NL-only format, give Eric Sogard, now of the Brewers, a look. Sogard is back after a year off with a nasty knee injury, and while Jonathan Villar is struggling, Sogard is hitting .476-2-7 his first week. Sogard is now 30, and a total pro, and that means he knows how to do his job. And that could well mean some long-term steady play. All he needs is the chance. Here it is.

Track me down @lawrmichaels.

Midway into the month of May, on the heels of Mother's Day, a new slew of prospects, all highly thought of, a couple who have already had a stab at the Show, make their way back to the Majors with the first wave of hopeful promotions.

Probably the most interesting at this juncture is another in the long line of Cubs youngin's with the mega talent, Ian Happ. Theo Epstein's first round selection in 2015, Happ went .259-9-33 with ten steals after being drafted, then kicked through High-A (.296-7-42) Carolina, then Double-A Tennessee (.262-8-31), earning a ticket to Triple-A Iowa to begin this season. After hitting .298-9-25 over 26 games, the big club decided Happ was ready, and here he is. Happ came up as a second sacker, but has played the outfield thus far in Chicago. He is likely here to stay.

Minnesota's 2012 Compensation pick, Jose Berrios, made his debut with the Twins in 2016, and started 14 games, winning three, but otherwise posting a horrific seven losses, 8.02 ERA and 1.97 WHIP over 58.3 innings. This suggests that the soon-to-be 23-year-old wasn't ready, but considering his 3-0, 1.13 numbers at Triple-A Rochester, maybe he is now. The solid 7.6 innings tossed with just one walk and two hits for a team that is having some nice pitching says maybe Berrios is indeed safe now.

Eddie Butler was also a 2012 Compensation pick, but for the Rockies where he went 6-16, 6.50 over 159.6 lousy innings, so the frustrated Coloradans swapped Butler to the Cubs (how rich can they get?) for James Farris in February. The right-hander only won one game at Iowa, but over five starts and 30.6 innings, Butler scored a 1.17 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 17 strikeouts, then winning his first start at Wrigley. 

The Athletics signed hurler Michael Ynoa in 2008 as a free agent, for whom the tall (6'7") Dominican toiled until Hot Stove 2014, when they swapped Ynoa along with Jeff Samardzija for Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien. With the swap, Ynoa moved exclusively to relief. And, though he earned no saves in the Minors, over 226.6 minor league innings, Ynoa has whiffed 232. In the bigs, he has 46.3 frames with 43 whiffs, a pair of wins, and could be good to fill a deep-league hole: some whiffs, some innings, perhaps a win, little potential damage.

The Angels activated Luis Valbuena, who should get a chunk of playing time spelling the rest of the lineup at first, third, and DH. Valbuena, still just 31, has some pretty good pop with a homer every 30 at-bats and 85 total over his career. In fact, Valbuena banged 25 for the Astros in 2015 and is likely available in most free agent pools.

Giants new third sacker Christian Arroyo was the team's first-round selection in 2013 and over 359 games since being selected, he hit .300-23-204. Though he posted a solid .343 OBP, Arroyo walked just 92 times to 238 punchouts. But, Arroyo has played well enough since being called up to push Eduardo Nunez into a utility role.

Another NL third sacker worth checking out is the Mets' T.J. Rivera, a 28-year-old originally signed by the Metropolitans in 2011 who has hit .324-36-348 with a .370 OBP over seven minor league seasons and 630 games. Rivera is one pleasant and stable surprise for the team, and is hitting at a .299-1-8 clip over 22 games. Again, in a deep league, such numbers make a valuable contribution.

Welington Castillo may be due back, but Caleb Joseph is red-hot, and in a deep league makes a great second backstop at this point. Joseph hit .440-1-5 over the past week over 22 at-bats, raising his season numbers to .284-2-9. If he keeps hitting, he will keep seeing pitches.

Make sure you tune into The Tout Wars Hour every Thursday night on the FNTSY Network from 8-10 PM, Eastern where Justin Mason and I talk to the top writers, analysts, and fantasy players discussing players, formats, games, sports, and strategies.

And, of course, you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Summer is upon us, and bats--well some--are indeed heating up, while arms are here to replace. So, let's see just who needs attention in your league this coming week, as we try to navigate through the first third of the season.

The Tigers have been plagued with injuries (haven't we all) and Jim Adduci, seemingly a name from the past, has stepped in to fill part of the void. At age 31, Adduci last played in the Majors in 2014, having played in the Latin leagues in the interim. Maybe we will think of him as Eric Thames light, but for the price, he might be better, having dropped a .381-0-7 line with a .919 OPS, seven runs scored, and a swipe over 11 games. He keeps that up and he will get to play.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Yonder Alonso for some reason, and this year is no different save he is sticking. It is weird, though for over his career of 692 games, Alonso has 47 homers, with nine of them this year. Four, or nearly 10%, have come in the last week, over which the first sacker has hit .421 with eight RBI and a solid hold on first base at Rickey Henderson Field.

There is speculation around who gets to join the lean Twins rotation, and of course there is speculation surrounding Jose Berrios, but keep an eye on Tyler Duffey. Yeah, Duffey struggled last year, going 9-12, 6.43, but thus far his 13 whiffs over 14.3 innings, 1.88 ERA and 1.18 WHIP suggest some lessons learned for the 26-year-old.

Similarly, the Mets are struggling now with both Matt Harvey suspended and Noah Syndergaard ailing, and they promoted Tommy Milone to fill one spot. A journeyman of the highest order, Milone is a nibbler who has to keep the ball down, and can indeed have some success when he keeps hitters guessing. And, that usually lasts for one or two starts, and then Milone becomes canon fodder. Tread carefully: be prepared to dump aggressively.

Sandy Leon, who banged a couple of homers Sunday, has been the main backstop in Beantown this year, but Christian Vazquez has been a pretty good back-up. If you are in a deeper league, and say need to replace Josh Phegley, Vazquez, hitting .333-0-4 over 47 plate appearances, is a great path to try.

Devon Travis has hit a relatively solid .220-1-2 over the past ten days, raising his totals to .156-1-4. That tells you both how poorly Travis was hitting, and that maybe he is shaking off the shackles of the slump that has plagued him thus far. I like Travis and think he will indeed bust out, so watch and try to take advantage.

Similarly, Kole Calhoun has a season mark of .248-4-11, but over the past week he has hit .250-3-5, meaning the bulk of production this year was over the past seven days, and that too suggests a potential breakout. If Calhoun is languishing (he shouldn't be) jump on him, and with their struggles, both Calhoun and Travis are worth exploring as DFS plays whose value has dropped.

Finally, if you are an Eric Thames devotee, think about selling high. Following his self-imposed exile to the Far East, Thames came out of the blocks red-hot, hitting .345 with 11 homers and 19 RBI. But over the past two weeks, those totals have dropped thanks to a .222 average with three of those homers and six of the RBI. Before he left, Thames was no Cecil Fielder, so no reason to think he will be upon coming back.

Don't forget to tune into "The Tout Wars Hour" every Thursday night, from 8-10 PM, ET, on the FNTSY Sports Network, when Justin Mason and I talk strategy and then have guests and regular features that look at more strategy, along with players, prospects, and a lot of other stuff. Click here to stream for free, and download the app to track on your smart phone.

Remember, you can nag, respond, agree, et al @lawrmichaels.

Into May, and maybe even some real summer weather we go for the 2017 season. I can tell you as a resident of Northern California, an area mired in a drought for five years, we have had record rainfall this year, so the sun is more than welcome.

So, as the weather warms up, what players might we track over the coming week? Well, we will look below, but don't forget to join Justin Mason and me this and every Thursday at the FNTSY network from 6-7 PM ET for the Tout Wars Hour. We will be having the best known writers and analysts who play in the toughest leagues on the planet each week, covering fantasy of every kind, everywhere. You can stream on your laptop for free and via the FNTSY app

It is hard to "recommend" a guy hitting .176 with just a couple of homers, but with C.J. Cron hurt, and Albert Pujols struggling (.240 with a .278 OBP), Jefry Marte is likely to get some serious playing time. As a 23-year-old in 2015, Marte hit .271-15-69 over 106 Triple-A games with 38 walks to 70 whiffs, so the first sacker can do it. In a deep league, those at-bats mean everything. 

We can hang in the AL West, where Leonys Martin was designated, opening potential playing time for 24-year-old Ben Gamel. Drafted by the Yankees in the tenth round of the 2010 June Draft, then swapped to Seattle last August, Gamel has a .288-27-319 line with 95 swipes over 688 games with a .347 OBP (239 BB/525 K). The left-handed hitter should see some time hitting right-handers.

Finishing in the AL West, Jesse Hahn has been a work in progress for several years now, tempting with some solid numbers from 2014-15. But in limited time last year, he went 2-4, 6.02. This season has been a dufferent story. Filling in the injury gaps at Rickey Henderson Field, Hahn is 1-1, 2.08 over 26 innings with 29 whiffs and a solid 0.962 WHIP. He's worth a look in any format.

I cannot let the week escape without noting the debut of the wonderfully named Gift Ngoepe passing us by. As we know, Ngoepe is the first Major League player born on the African Continent. Though the story is fun, and Ngoepe has bagged hits four of his first eight at-bats, the guy has a minor league career line of .232-37-201 and a .322 OBP, so the good story may be short-lived. Still, yay for baseball touching yet another place on the earth.

Since the White Sox are in transition, there has been a lot of speculation regarding the disposition of Todd Frazier, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season. It does seem the Pale Hose might indeed move Frazier, and a lot of the reason might be that Matt Davidson could be ready to pick up the hot corner gauntlet. Davidson is hitting .286-4-14 over 46 at-bats this year and is a good gamble as a corner guy in a deeper AL or Mixed format.

The Jays let go of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and brought up backstop Luke Maile, who has a .255-19-169 line over 1457 at-bats with 159 walks to 260 strikeouts, good for a .333 OBP. Maile is not much of an option at this point, however, save for the deepest of leagues.

Michael Taylor might be struggling with a .192-0-1 line over 28 at-bats, but with Adam Eaton out for the rest of the season, Taylor is the beneficiary of that now open playing time. He does strike out (263 to 53 walks) but he also has some pop with 22 homers and speed with 30 steals over 758 at-bats. 

You can follow me @lawrmichaels.

I don't know about you, but I like to draft teams where I have as many solid everyday guys at as many positions as possible. Of course we all want starters and production up and down our squads but I tend to play in very deep leagues, and mostly auctions, so it is standard to need the services of Josh Phegley and Michael Tonkin.

In fact, at present six of my LABR guys and five on my Tout squad are indeed on the DL, so I am actively playing the FAAB game where the player pool is lean. Still, there are always those guys hanging out there who can help, so let's peek at a few.

It has taken Robbie Grossman a bit to get the hang in the Majors, but he managed a .379 OBP, 131 steals, and 519 runs over 763 minor league games. And, it has taken a few teams, but Grossman has settled in with the Twins and is among the Major League Leaders in OBP with a .460 supported by a .306-1-8, and is owned on just 6.8% of ESPN teams.

Oakland's Jaff Decker was drafted in the first round of the 2008 June fete by the Padres, and now on his fourth team, Decker might well have finally settled in to take advantage of those same skills that made him a top selection. With Rajai Davis hurting, and the Oakland outfield interesting, but spotty at best, Decker has stepped up, playing all three outfield slots while hitting .273-0-1 with a steal and a .407 OBP.

Across the bay, in San Francisco, Jarrett Parker is out for a chunk of time, and with Mac Williamson going to rehab, he becomes a good gamble to fill in while Parker rehabs his broken clavicle. Williamson hit .286-61-247 over 372 minor league games and did belt seven homers with the big club over limited playing time the last couple of years.

One more outfielder on the outskirts who could be of some help is the Reds' Scott Schebler. The former Dodger turned in solid bench totals last year, hitting .265-0-40 over 82 games, and has banged four big flies this year, playing yo-yo between the Reds and the Minors. Expect Schebler to stick with the Reds despite the early struggles and contribute accordingly, and that means value in a deeper league.

Chris Devenski has a win, a save, a 1.35 ERA, a 0.60 WHIP, and 25 whiffs over 13.3 innings. No matter what league or format you are in, this guy needs a look. If you doubt me, look at his 2016 numbers.

In Los Angeles, Cam Bedrosian is on the DL, while aging Huston Street is maybe coming off. Enter Blake Parker, who saved a game for the Yankees last year and has pitched well out of the pen this season, with 12 whiffs over 8.3 innings, a hold, a loss, a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He is worth a FAAB gamble.

With the demotion of Raul Mondesi, Jr., Whit Merrifield was brought back and has a solid chance to hang onto the starting second base gig for the rest of the season. Merrifield hit a solid .283-2-29 with eight swipes last year, and came back to hit .263-1-2 thus far over five games since his return. I like this guy, especially in AL-only formats. 

Finally, last year the Jays' Darwin Barney played a solid fill-in role, and now with Toronto scrapping, and Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson out, Barney should get a nice run of playing time. Barney hit .269-4-19 last year with 35 runs, and played second, third, short, and the outfield, making him a versatile roster member, again likely in a deep league, but still of value.

Don't forget you can hit me up @lawrmichaels.

Though the standings and the stats are still on the volatile side, things are settling into a bit of a groove for the 2017 season, and for sure, the injuries and the ineffectiveness issues are still first and foremost in the eyes of the Roto Owner. So, after Easter Eggs, and likely an Easter ham to go with Sunday Night baseball, what is now on the horizon as we start to move into the groove of the baseball grind?

Well, a cluster of newbies appeared this week, including perhaps the first of the big name prospects of 2017 in the form of Jesse Winker. A 2012 Type-A Compensation selection of the Reds, Winker scored #71 on last year's Top 250 coming off a .282-13-55 season at Pensacola, and this year logged in at #147 following his .303-3-45 Triple-A 2016 campaign over 104 games. Winker has a career minor league OBP of .399 with 298 walks to 343 strikeouts coupled with 531 hits and is a guy you want to own in Ultra Leagues.

The Pinstripes fourth-round selection in 2014, Jordan Montgomery went a combined 14-5, 2.13 with 134 whiffs over 139.6 innings last year, good enough to score #121 on my prospect list. As a minor leaguer, Montgomery went 25-14, 2.57 over 297.6 innings with 293 whiffs, and his first Yankee Stadium start was good for 4.6 innings with seven strikeouts. He should be good for another start, meaning for now in an AL-only format, Montgomery is worth a shot.

The Twins have been a bit surprising to start the season, and shortstop Jorge Polanco is one of the pleasant parts of that surprise. Polanco actually grabbed the starting job last year, hitting .282-4-27 over 69 games, and has started 2017 strong, hitting .302-1-5 thus far. Polanco has some speed (60 swipes in the Minors) and decent on-base totals (.346) that have maintained with the promotion to the Show (.341). Finally, Polanco is playing every day, and at-bats are the name of the game.

Last year, I thought enough of the Rockies' Antonio Senzatela to rank him #31 on the 2016 Top 250 based upon his 9-9, 2.51 season with 143 strikeouts over 154 innings. 2016 included three trips to the DL but Senzatela still went 4-1, 1.82 over seven starts and 43.3 innings. Senzatela has made three Colorado starts thus far, going 2-0, 2.37 after besting the Giants on Sunday. With Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland, maybe this is a new day for Rockies pitchers?

Anyone been waiting for the now 28-year-old former first-rounder from Stanford, Jason Castro, to hit? Well, at Target, as a real vet, maybe the time has come with Castro hitting a modest .261, with a homer and seven RBI. That makes him worth a look in your AL-only format.

Scrounging for saves? So are the Rangers, who have to let go of Sam Dyson following his latest meltdown Sunday. Maybe the real answer is with Jose Leclerc, who bagged 23 saves in 34 tries in the Minors while placing a 21-22, 3.64 over 366.1 innings. Within those totals live 25 starts along with a fine 400 punchouts, and thus far Leclerc has a save in Arlington, something Dyson has not managed.

With Zach Britton hurt, and potentially down for awhile, look to longtime minor league closer Brad Brach to get the first shot at Baltimore saves. Over six minor league seasons, Brach went 21-16, 2.47, with 119 conversions within the system. Brach struck out 375 over 300.3 innings and allowed just 247 hits (17 homers) over that span. The kid was groomed for this gig, so he should do ok.

Some guys live a charmed life, and Reds hurler Michael Lorenzen certainly has had a charmed season thus far. To start, Lorenzen banged a game-winning pinch-hit homer on April 6. On April 10, Lorenzen copped a win, and on Saturday a save, though the question is what Lorenzen's role is with Raisel Iglesias owning the closing gig. But Lorenzen surely seems to have some good start karma this year, and that is nothing to dismiss. Just saying.

Infielder Miguel Rojas has been spelling the Miami hot corner with Martin Prado injured, and Rojas has done well, hitting .367-0-2 with an equally impressive five walks to six strikeouts so far. Rojas can play all over the infield, although his big league numbers are indeed better than those in the Minors (.244-20-221 over 790 games). Still, in a deep NL format, the everyday at-bats are the godsend. Exploit accordingly.

Find me @lawrmichaels.


Here we are a week into the new season, with a first full week of play and of course, a cluster of interesting player possiblities. So, let's hop straight to it and see what is out there.

Where would a better start place be looking at the player pool than with the obviously named Reds pitcher, Rookie Davis? The Yankees drafted Davis in the 14th round in 2011 and as largely a starter, he put together a 29-25, 3.87 mark over 450.6 frames with 376 whiffs and a 1.30 WHIP. So, not bad, but nothing to raise an eyebrow. However, the Reds thought enough of Davis to grab him as part of the Aroldis Chapman swap. Davis got knocked around pretty well by the Phillies his first start, so as tempting as his name might be, at this point leave the rookie alone.

As long as we are talking about the Phillies, I have always been a fan of Howie Kendrick, and as a utility player in Philadelphia, Kendrick is off to a killer start, hitting .444-0-4 thus far. Always underrated, Kendrick has a 162-game average of .290-11-72, with 36 doubles and 13 swipes, and he's still just 33, so he has some go left in his legs. The new Phil also qualifies in the outfield, first, third, and second last year, so he is likely to fill in all over this season. Chances are in your 12-team mixed league, Kendrick is sitting in the waiver pool waiting for the call.

Ariel Miranda is another Cuban import, though more of an under-the-radar guy than say Cespedes and Puig. Miranda went 22-25, 3.78 over 386 frames in his homeland with 274 whiffs. Miranda, 28, signed with the Orioles in 2015 and then was moved to the Mariners last year for Wade Miley. Miranda went 5-2, 3.88, mostly with the M's, over 58 solid innings that produced 44 strikeouts and a 1.121 WHIP. He makes for an interesting selection in AL-only formats and is even worth tracking in mixed leagues.

Pirates third sacker David Freese has certainly had some big moments, particularly with the Cardinals over the years, and though he is now 34, the idea that Freese is brittle is not really so. Freese has played in more than 120 games every year since 2011, and his .275-82-404 mark over that period is pretty good. Now ensconced at the Pittsburgh hot corner, Freese has started off well with a .363-1-1 mark, and as a left-handed hitter makes a nice platoon DFS pick depending upon the matchup. Freese could also be of value in a tight NL format, and is worth mixed tracking too.

Oakland is pretty much relying on young hurlers this season, and though we all know about Jharel Cotton, do we know about Andrew Triggs? Selected in the 19th round of the 2012 draft by the Royals, KC sold Triggs to the Orioles for cash in 2015, and the Orioles then released the right-hander when Billy Beane cleverly snatched him up. As a minor leaguer, Triggs pitched in 168 games (13-10, 2.09, with 52 saves), although the Athletics are pushing him to the rotation, with at least initial success. Triggs whiffed 254 over 253 minor league frames, and held hitters to a .219 average, and after his solid start last week, AL-only owners should indeed have him in their sights.

Second base has been a vortex for the White Sox, and one of the 2017 options worthy of following might be Tyler Saladino, who is hitting .308 with a steal over his first four games. Saladino has just a full season of big league totals under his belt, having appeared in 165 games, hitting .258-12-52 with 20 swipes, though his OBP is a questionable .300 in the bigs (it is .358 in the Minors). Again, in a deeper league, you have to at least consider the possibility of rostering Saladino if you are managing judiciously, so don't dismiss him too readily.

Could there actually be a golden age of Rockies starters in front of us? With Jon Gray, and now Kyle Freeland, could be. Following Antonio Senzatela's strong game (5.2 innings, no runs, six whiffs), Freeland, 23, dazzled with six solid frames that resulted in a win. A former first-rounder in 2014, Freeland went 17-12, 3.49 over 45 starts and 272.6 innings. The Southpaw is not dominant (169 whiffs) but is certainly worth a look to see how his next starts go. And were I to choose between the pair, I would likely pick Senzatela.

Finally, if you are looking for cheap catching help, Red Sox backstop Sandy Leon, who has been a journeyman for the past six years, had a nice 2016 and is establishing himself as the everyday guy in Beantown. Over 612 minor league games, Leon had a .238-24-228 line, while over 157 big league games, the line is .260-9-48, including a solid .310-7-35 last year over 78 games. Leon is hot out of the box this season, going .438-1-5 the first week, making him another desirable selection depending upon your league. 

Don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

It is Opening Day as I write, which is fun. I spent the early part of the day cleaning out my office in anticipation of the season, watching first the Rays and Yankees, then the Giants and D-backs, and now the Cubbies and Cardinals. So, it is fun to be back, tracking some stats, and looking at players who might be plucked from some form of obscurity and shoved into Fantasy relevance.

So, let's start the season with eight names--our regular Monday feature--and see where it takes us. Note we will have DFS coverage pretty much daily, covering baseball, and also soccer and golf, as well as Tout Wars FAAB moves and of course there is our Platinum Package that Todd drives which NFBC Champs swear by. 

So, let's get started.

Derek Norris (C, Rays): Norris, it seems, has become the ugly stepsister of catchers to fantasy owners, largely thanks to his .186-14-42 season last year that "featured" a .583 OPS. Norris is clearly better than those numbers suggest, as witnessed by his peak season of 2014 when he hit .270-10-55. Norris is still just 28, did swipe nine bags last year, and is the everyday guy in Tampa till Wilson Ramos returns, and in a deep league, the steal potential means a lot. As for the OBP, it was terrible in the NL (.305 in 2015, but .361 a year earlier). Chalk it up to the learning curve, to start, but don't be afraid to plug a backstop hole with Norris. He is exactly the kind of guy you can grab and dump without impugnity.

Joe Biagini (P, Jays): With Roberto Osuna down suffering from cervical spasms, the primary closing role in Toronto goes to Jason Grilli, but keep an eye on Biagini, a 26-year-old selected in the 26th round in 2011 out of UC Davis by the Giants. Drafted as a starter, Biagini did that over 448 innings and 86 starts in the Minors, but adjusted well to relief work last year, whiffing 62 over 67.3 innings, posting a 3-3, 3.03 line with a save. Cheap saves could be out there, especially if Grilli struggles and Osuna spasms.  And, well, I have a soft spot for UC Davis grads (half my family went there, it seems).

Tommy Joseph (1B, Phillies): Another Giants selection, this time from the second round in 2009, then moving to the Phils in 2009 as part of the Hunter Pence deal. Joseph has really solid power, and his 2016 line is actually a lot like that of C.J. Cron's with .251-21-47 totals over 347 at-bats. Joseph banged 69 homers in the Minors over 500 games, though he does fall victim to the whiff (116 walks to 407 strikeouts). However, Joseph had a killer .313-3-11 spring, and at 25, could indeed kick it up this year. In shallower leagues, Joseph might well be floating around in the free agent pool, so keep an eye on him. Like Cron, whom I think will find his stride this year, so might Joseph.

Taylor Motter (SS, Mariners): A 17th-round pick of the Rays in 2009, Motter had a strong minor league line of .272-56-263 with 127 swipes. Motter has been a patient minor leaguer, as witnessed by his 232 walks to 351 strikeouts, good for a solid .349 OBP. He was swapped by the Rays during the off-season and the Mariners thought enough of him to trade off Ketel Marte, whom I think still has a nice enough future ahead of him. Again, in shallow leagues, most guys probably don't even know who Motter is.

Jesus Aguilar (1B, Brewers): I know there are many who are big on the Eric Thames bandwagon, but I am not among them. Instead, I like the guy who led the spring hitters, slapping out a .452-7-14 line over 62 at-bats, and I think the big (6'3", 250) 26-year-old is going to be the go-to guy. Over nine minor league seasons, Aguilar hit .271-140-650 with a two-to-one 783 strikeouts to 394 walks with a .348 OBP. 

Aaron Hicks (OF, Yankees): I thought Hicks might make an impact last year, but he was basically shuffled to the back burner while the Yanks made a lot of swaps and such. But, to me, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are on a real downslide, and whatever else be said about Aaron Judge, he is a strikeout machine in the mode of Drew Henson, and I just don't see him as an everyday player. But Hicks is a quiet alternative who can do a little bit of everything, and in deference to struggles with any among Ellsbury, Gardner and Judge, Hicks will be the initial beneficiary.

Ricky Nolasco (P, Angels): OK, I cannot in good conscience recommend Nolasco, but the 34-year-old, who went 8-14, 4.42 with a 1.24 WHIP last year, is the Opening Day starter for the Halos. Nolasco really has no value in shallower leagues, and should be handled with kid gloves in deeper ones. But, like Ubaldo Jimenez, Nolasco is capable of reeling off a handful of solid starts, even earning whiffs. 

Ty Blach (P, Giants): Blach, a fifth-round selection of the Giants in 2012, lost the rotation numbers game to Matt Cain, who earned the fifth rotation spot. Blach has a solid 45-31, 3.53 mark over 98 starts and 499.3 innings. He's ok with the control, having struck out 414, with a 1.23 WHIP. Blach is the swingman for now, but I just cannot believe that Cain will be either durable or effective anymore. Which is a shame, but Blach will take over when the collapse occurs.

 Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

During a great first half of the week at the Grapefruit League with my XFL mates, the best part came when after 20 years of working together, I finally met our football guru, Marc Meltzer, who lives in Jupiter, in the flesh. Good times.

OK, so, to reality and Tout Wars, for which I posted my wish list early Saturday, plenty of hours before the draft, which commenced at Rock 'N' Reilly's on Saturday morning. 

So, here are the bad boys for this year: 

Sandy Leon (C, $3): I paid $2 more in LABR, so this works fine for me as part of a quasi-platoon of receivers. 

Caleb Joseph (C, $1): Targeted for a buck on my wish list, I like Joseph like I like Leon like I like Josh Phegley. For a dollar, .255-5-35 is just fine. If we're into May and Joseph sucks, I can drop him without impugnity (of course that means he will get red-hot elsewhere, right?).

Carlos Santanta (1B, $26): I wanted him in LABR and here, and spent a few bucks more than the $24, but the money saved on Leon evened things out. If anyone can bang 30 homers on my team, this is the guy.

Devon Travis (2B, $15): I love this guy. I want him to stay healthy, of course, and even that is in question to start the season, but if Travis plays 145-plus games, he will put up a fine line. He cost $3 less than I figured.

Trevor Plouffe (3B, $10): It is not so much that I am sold on Plouffe, whom I own in LABR for the same amount, but he plays every day, and I do like him over Ryon Healy, despite popular convention. I had wanted Nick Castellanos, but I anticipated spending $18-19 on Castellanos, and when Plouffe was nominated, and the bidding slowed at $8, I jumped to $10 figuring this will fill the spot with a full- timer with double-digit homer power who averaged 83 RBI as a full-timer from 2014-15.

Alcides Escobar (SS, $11): Escobar played all 162 games last year and in 2014, with 148 in between. Over a 162-game average, the shortstop has hit .262-4-61 with 23 swipes. OBP is an issue, but I can deal.

Rob Refsnyder (CI, $2): Cost me a buck more than LABR, but with issues surrounding Didi Gregorius, he is primed to get extra opportunities. Some nice position flexibility potential as well.

Eduardo Escobar (MI, $1): Kind of like the other Escobar, though not a starter at this point, so much cheaper. Escobar is one season removed from a pair of solid ones, is enjoying a great spring, and he helps me lead the league in Escobars.

Khris Davis (OF, $23): Same price as LABR: project same output. .269-28-80 is fine.

Kevin Kiermaier (OF, $19): This spot would belong to Kole Calhoun, but I like Kiermaier as a 20/20 candidate and speed is something Kole cannot do.

Tyler Naquin (OF, $10): I was sitting on Eddie Rosario, but it was getting late in the draft and Naquin is another full-timer who could contribute across the board. Again, I had the bucks so I went for a little more power potential and more of a sure thing on a better team.

Max Kepler (OF, $17): So, Naquin/Kepler represents a shift from LABR, and I like the Twins flychaser, who has pop, an eye, and some speed. He just needs to settle his contact rate to be really good.

Yonder Alonso (SW, $4): He will start versus right-handers and is a good OBP guy on a team that values said skill. His glove guarantees playing time, but Alonso can indeed hit and get on base and is steady and cheap.

Brad Miller (UT, $19): Banking that Miller can keep the power up and drive in some runs. He does give me some position flexibility and with him I have eight players with 20-plus home run capability, and that spreads the risk and power around pretty well.

Chris Archer (SP, $24): I really wanted him in LABR, but a solid spring and fine WBC performance bumped the cost. I was prepared here to up the ante, pay $24 and give Archer the ace role. Now, if he can indeed step into it, we are set.

Ervin Santana (SP, $5): Steady Erv is just fine with me.

Aaron Sanchez (SP, $14): Building off a strong season, I am looking at Sanchez as my #2 guy who can maybe provide 200 whiffs.

Alex Cobb (SP, $7): Just stay heathy. Please.

Kendall Graveman (SP, $3): Oakland's Opening Day guy doesn't whiff a lot. But when he is on, he keeps the ball down and can work innings. Building off a strong second half, I am hoping Graveman steps it up.

Jordan Zimmermann (SP, $3): See Alex Cobb.

Robeto Osuna (RP, $19): A solid closer on a solid team at a reasonable price.

Andrew Miller (RP, $14): Along with Osuna, Miller and Betances as a relief corps will provide innings, and should be good for at least 50 saves, and maybe more, along with the potential for 10-15 cumulative wins.

Dellin Betances (RP, $13): If Betances and Miller can come close to repeating last season, it will make my starting pitching that much better and similarly bring all my pitching totals up as well. This was my pitching strategy this time through.

Don't forget you can tweet me @lawrmichaels.

I don't know about you, but this is a big week. As I write, I fly to the Grapefruit League, where I will attend a few games and hook with Todd, Ron Shandler, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Jeff Winick and Brian Feldman to complete the XFL Roster Expansion Draft. The XFL allows for a 23-man auction in November at First Pitch Arizona, and then a 17-player expansion draft just prior to the start of the season. 

Because of the size of the rosters, we can draft at any level, and freeze (up to 15) end of season, with prospects being key to long-term success, for if an owner should find a Yoenis Cespedes-type player, he gets activated his first year for a buck, and the salary increases just $3 a season as long as the player is not tossed back into the player pool. As in, I am now enjoying the Mets outfielder for a sixth season at the modest price of $16, and at $3 a season, the Mets outfielder might well spend a decade on my roster. 

So, the XFL runs pretty deep, but so does my 24-team Scoresheet League which just concluded a 35-player draft, where again, prospects at the lowest levels can be mined and protected for a number of years even though we only allow eight freezes in that format.

As usual in each draft, I try to ensure I have innings and at-bats and even more important, bench strength to support the starters, but I similarly will invest five-to-seven roster spots when the opportunity arises just to see what the numbers shake out.

So, this time, here are eight more names, but this time they are minor leaguers who might not be familiar in the Cody Bellinger/Eloy Jimemez sense, but they well could be by season's end (and some could indeed make it to the Show). Note some of these names have indeed come up during my Top 250 work, and if they made the list, their number is noted in parens. Also, alll these players were drafted during the Murphy Scoresheet League draft.

Jake Bauers (OF, Rays, #19): Drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by the Padres, Bauers caught enough Ray-eyes to be part of the Wil Myers swap of 2015. A full year at Montgomery last year resulted in a .274-14-78 line with 28 doubles and 73 walks to 88 whiffs, good for a .370 OBP. He is .444-4-11 this spring over 27 red-hot at-bats, so figure the outfielder could make his presence known at Tropicana before long.

Yohander Mendez (P, Rangers, #13): Hard to not like 6'5" hard throwers with control and Mendez posted a miniscule 1.02 WHIP at three levels, going 12-3, 2.19 over 111 innings with 113 strikeouts. Teams dig deep for arms during the season, and since Mendez had a sip last year at Arlington, expect the team to give him a look this year. 

Ramon Laureano (OF, Astros, #67): The 22-year-old crushed it at High-A Lancaster, going .317-10-60 before a promotion to Corpus Christi where the outfielder hit .323-5-13, giving an aggregate season of .319-15-73 with 28 doubles, seven triples and 43 swipes. Laureano also walked 70 times to 111 strikeouts, good for a .428 OBP and a .955 OPS.

Bradley Zimmer (OF, Indians): At 24, Zimmer is a little older, but he was a first round pick of the Indians in 2014, and responded with a .268-37-157 with 94 steals over 369 games. Zimmer made a case for Major League consideration last year when he hit .250-15-62 with 38 steals over 130 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Zimmer did strike out a bunch (171 times) but also nudged 77 walks, good for a .365 OBP. He has to be given a shot somewhere before too long.

Nick Senzel (3B, Reds, #113): First round pick of the Reds last summer, Senzel is nearly big league ready, having debuted hitting .305-7-40 over 68 games split between Rookie ball and the Midwest League. Senzel also grabbed 38 walks to 54 punchouts, good for a .398 OBP and .912 OPS. The hot corner guy is probably not even much of a secret at this point, but don't let him slip past your Ultra reserve list, and even in an NL-only throwback league for 2017, Senzel makes a good reserve pick gamble.

Victor Robles (OF, Nationals, #89): The 19-year-old, signed in 2014, blasted through two levels last year (ignore the five GCL games), hitting .280-9-42 with 37 steals over 105 games divided between Potomac and Harrisburg. Robles makes good contact, for though he only has 66 walks over 218 minor league games, so does he have only 136 strikeouts. With 17 triples and 83 swipes as a pro, Robles looks like a potential center field/leadoff hitter somewhere.

Ian Happ (2B, Cubs, #193): Does it ever get tiring these days, reading about the Cubs and their prospects with brilliant prospects? Happ, the #1 pick in 2015, is yet another kid who hit .279-15-73 with 30 doubles and 16 steals over 134 games last year, half at Myrtle Beach and half with the Tennessee Smokies. He has 108 walks to 198 strikeouts over 201 minor league games with a .368 OBP and .914 OPS. The question, of course, is where will he play? The answer is surely "somewhere."

Jacob Faria (P, Rays, #81): Lesser known, this tenth-round selection of the Rays in 2011 has a 35-31, 3.31 minor league line over 92 starts and 540.3 innings. The righty has 542 strikeouts over that span and just a 1.13 WHIP and 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Faria climbed as high as Triple-A last year, finishing the season at Durham going 4-4, 3.72 over 13 starts and 67.6 innings, striking out 64 with a 1.14 WHIP and a  .190 allowed batting average.

Good luck with your drafts this week, and don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels. And, since this is Tout Wars week, there will be lots of articles, posts, and radio programming geared to and covering all four weekend drafts. Make sure you follow us for all the details.

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